Georgia hits the practice fields twice today, beginning with a morning session in shoulder pads and a full scrimmage at Sanford Stadium in the afternoon. The scrimmage will be the first opportunity for coaches to evaluate players under game conditions, and a number of key preseason battles will begin to take shape afterward.
“I'm interested to see how those guys compete when they get hit and playing in the stadium and playing out there without their coaches behind them telling them what's going on,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “I'm just excited to see whose going to step up, try to get an idea of what our identity is going to be based on who can make plays and who'll move the football.”
The most intriguing of those competitions is at tailback, where five players have earned roughly equal reps with the first-team offense during the first week-and-a-half of practice, but running backs coach Bryan McClendon said the ranks should get thinner after he sees his troops in action.
“I’m really holding off until this scrimmage to sort of get in some sort of pecking order,” McClendon said. “It’s really up to those guys now.”
If fans are curious to see who impresses during the scrimmage, the actual competitors are downright giddy.
“I look at the scrimmage as the first test, the first exam,” said sophomore tailback Richard Samuel. “It’s the first test to show that you can put together everything we learned and be able to execute. The scrimmage will allow us to show coaches that we can get the job done, so it’s pretty important.”
Samuel split back-up duties a year ago with Caleb King, and while McClendon insists it remains an open competition, the two are the favorites for playing time again this season.
King, in particular, has made the most of his offseason and garnered the confidence of his coach during the early practices this fall.
“He came in a lot better shape,” McClendon said of King. “He actually picked up weight. He’s actually gotten a bit heavier, just as far as body mass. A lot of that is due to age, and a lot of that is due to him taking the opportunity. He works his tail off, and he’s making good. I’m excited to see what all those guys are going to do.”